Relaxing during cancer may sound like an obvious subject but actually, its harder than you think. There is so much going on relaxing during cancer can be the last thing on our minds. I had to work at it initially but I am getting there!
All of us have different personalities and therefore react to our life circumstances in different ways so it would be wrong to try and claim that we all need to do the same thing through cancer but relaxing should be important to all of us.
We will all have relaxed differently prior to this unwanted diagnosis and most hobbies can be continued through this time (except perhaps endurance and ultra type sports which may have to be modified). But this could be a good time to explore other things that maybe life has been too busy for in the past. This could have the added benefit of meeting new friends and learning new skills.
Whether you like it or not exercise in all its many forms is known to be relaxing. This is because exercise raises the endorphins (the feel good chemicals in the brain).
Exercise is also linked with more positive outcomes in terms of cancer. From several observational studies we know that exercise reduces your risk of many cancers in the first place but can also decrease your cancer symptoms such a nausea and fatigue and improve your mood. There is also some Canadian research from 2017 that exercise can prevent recurrence of breast cancer as part of lifestyle modifications. ((Warner E. CMAJ 2017)
There is more and more evidence of the specific protective effect of exercise against breast, womb and bowel cancer which is a whole different topic but another positive for giving exercise a chance!
Which Type of Exercise?
It really doesn’t matter! Whatever you find relaxing…..
Walking is an exercise that may be quite an easy one to incorporate into your daily life. It doesn’t take any preparation or any expensive equipment. NHS guidelines suggest 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity like cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week to achieve health benefits.
For the purposes of relaxation at this time in your life getting outside even for a stroll is going to make you feel better. Take a friend with you and use this opportunity to catch up on the gossip too for maximum tuning out!
Yoga is probably the exercise that most people would automatically link with relaxation and there’s a reason! The combination of the poses, concentrating on your breathing and meditation all combine to reduce your stress levels both physically and mentally.
Don’t let the idea of yoga and lycra clad super flexible people put you off. There are many types of yoga available to people of all age groups. If you are a beginner find a local group – there are those who go for a coffee and chat afterwards which obviously adds to the relaxation. Unless you are used to yoga don’t opt for anything too high intensity to start with – start low and go slow and who knows where you may end up.
Don’t forget to tell the yoga instructor your medical status as there may be times when an alternative pose or ‘flow’ would suite your needs better.
Yoga can also easily be practised at home once you have a feel for it and know the basics.
Too many of us these days are generally too busy with life to pick up a book and read. There are too many other distractions too – its amazing how much time can be spent on social media and while it does have its benefits there is nothing quite like the pure escapism of getting stuck in to a book.
You may find yourself at the moment with a bit more time on your hands. You may have been told to rest and its not always that easy but if you’re in the middle of a god book you won’t even notice!
Books of course these days are electronic as well as paper so there is the advantage that with some apps you can pick up where you were on your reading device on your phone. This obviously lends itself to those unplanned waits in clinic waiting rooms and makes the time go so much faster.
There are some really good online book groups around so reading doesn’t have to feel isolated, nothing quite gets a discussion going like a good book, whether this is on a Facebook book group or a real live flesh and blood one and its a great place to get recommendations if you are out of the habit of reading.
I understand this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but writing can be hugely relaxing.
You don’t have to write for anyone else and it doesn’t have to be ground breaking. Just write for you and see where it takes you. Most of us haven’t sat down with a blank sheet (or screen) in front of us since school and while it can feel daunting it can also be liberating.
These days there are so many opportunities with writing if you do decide to take it any further. This could be writing that childrens’ book you have always dreamed of or writing about your experiences to help others the world is just waiting for you!
Catching up with Friends
This may be the time to catch up with friends that you haven’t seen or spoken to for a time. In the early days you may find yourself inundated with coffee and cake which could be exactly what you need at that point in your journey but this may develop into offers of walks and other trips out as time goes on. Spending time with friends can be hugely therapeutic especially if you are the type of personality that thrives on human interaction.
Resting during Cancer
It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with wanting to have some you time. This may mean sitting in the garden staring into space or snuggling up under your duvet and shutting your eyes. This may be the one time in your life when people are very understanding about plans being cancelled at the last minute. Don’t be tempted to overbook yourself with activities as you may end up worn out and paying for it for days afterwards.
Be sensible, look at your week ahead and make sure that you have the right balance of social events, you time and any other things you need to get you through feeling relaxed and rested.